Israeli MMA fighter Natan Levy. (Instagram) (Instagram)
Natan Levy

Natan Levy was selected to compete in the world’s top mixed martial arts promotion.

By Yakir Benzion, United With Israel

What’s a nice Jewish boy doing picking fights for a living?

Mixed martial arts (MMA) fighting is for the toughest of fighters who are also among the most skilled at martial arts, often having black belts in more than one discipline.

Israeli MMA fighter Natan Levy got hooked on martial arts at an early age, and he’s now in Las Vegas, the mecca of MMA fighting and home to the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC), the world’s top organization where the best fighters compete.

He got his break as a replacement for a UFC fighter who was diagnosed with coronavirus, and despite a huge size difference, the 5′ 6″ Levy vanquished his 6′ 1″ much heavier opponent, telling reporters he first felt he was like David versus Goliath.

“I showed that it’s not about the size of the dog in the fight but the fight in the dog,” Levy said.

That victory got him a four-fight UFC contract, with the organization’s president Dana White saying he was thrilled.

“Our lawyers and our Hollywood agents are going crazy right now. These guys have been waiting for a guy from Israel,” White said.

Levy is proud of where he comes from and takes pride in his Jewish heritage, JTA noted.

“I’m here to show the world that we’re not only smart, well educated and well mannered, but if you push us, we can fight, we can defend ourselves and you’ll regret it!” Levy said.

“When somebody Jewish writes me and tells me they’re inspired by me to do sports, or they’ve been bullied and now feel that they can stand up for themselves, I swear it makes me more happy than winning a world title.”

Levy says that he and other athletes from Israel don’t take it lightly that they represent something bigger than themselves.

“We’re Jewish. We’re Israeli. We represent this wherever we go,” he said. “We need to be humble. Respectful. Not to mistreat people. Whoever mistreats us will pay — but we don’t do that to others.”

Levy recently told JTA he wears the Israeli flag to his fights “because [he’s] proud of where [he’s] from.”

Levy made aliyah to Israel from France as a child and grew up in Netanya, just north of Tel Aviv.

He found himself taking martial arts as a teen to defend himself when he got picked on for his accent and earned a black belt in kung fu at age 17, and a black belt in karate the following year. He joked about how he got over the mental fear of fighting.

“Getting punched in the face is not that bad,” Levy said. “Sure, it hurts a bit. But being afraid of getting punched in the face is so much worse. You’ll spend years fearing it. Then a day comes and you get punched in the face for the first time and realize, ‘That’s it? That’s what I was scared about?’”

At 22, Levy moved to Las Vegas to hone his skills and adapt them to MMA norms where just about anything goes in fighting, forcing him to learn nearly every type of martial art and boxing techniques. He trained and worked for several years with the goal of getting bouts in the UFC, where competitors battle it out in a caged ring until one is either knocked out or submits.

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